For schools to help students reach their full potential, they must commit to continual improvement — and to move forward, they need actionable data. One essential source of that data is standardized assessment.
While no test can adequately capture the breadth and depth of students’ learning and development, assessments give school leaders and educators key insights into their strengths and challenges. Additionally, these assessments are a critical — and federally mandated — part of state school accountability systems developed under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Nevertheless, the pressure school leaders and educators face to meet state standards can be significant. In Florida, recent changes to the state assessment program have pointed to the need for solutions that can help districts and schools improve outcomes and results without adding to teachers’ and students’ existing burdens.
Required Assessments in Florida
The Florida Department of Education administers a number of statewide assessments each year, including progress assessments and end-of-course (EOC) assessments. Progress assessments, known as the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST), are delivered three times yearly in certain subjects, depending on grade. End-of-Course (EOC) Assessments are delivered using different standards depending on the subject, including Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.), Florida Standards, or the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS).
In high school, standard assessments include:
Possible achievement levels on each assessment range from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), with level 3 representing grade-level achievement and grade 5 representing mastery.
These assessments are critical to measuring student growth and are used to calculate school and district accountability scores. Additionally, students must pass two assessments — FAST English Language Arts – Reading in Grade 10 and B.E.S.T. Algebra I — to earn their high school diplomas.
Calculating School Accountability Scores in Florida
Florida’s accountability system for schools and districts is laid out by statute in compliance with ESSA. Each public school and each district receives an A-F letter grade, which is publicly available on the state report cards website. School grades are calculated using ten different components as of the 2023-2024 school year at the high school level. These include:
School grades are calculated by adding up the points that the school has earned and dividing by the total number of possible points, and matched to letter grades as follows: A=70% of available points or greater; B=60% to 69% of points; C=40% to 59% of points; D=23% to 39% of points; and F=22% of points or less.
In addition to these overall grades, state report cards show schools’ and districts’ scores within demographic subgroups, which include racial and ethnic groups as well as groups such as economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.
District grades and subgroup scores are calculated using the same methodology but include data from all students in the district.
Current State of Standardized Assessment Scores in Florida
Florida’s standardized assessment and school accountability landscape has undergone significant changes in recent years. In the 2022-2023 school year, the state rolled out new assessments aligned to the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards, which include the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST) and B.E.S.T.-aligned end-of-course (EOC) assessments. Reactions to the new assessments have been mixed. While some educators praise the new standards, other educators and parents alike about the time spent on standardized tests and the speed of the transition.
In the 2022-2023 school year, assessment scores were collected for benchmarking purposes, school grades (released in December 2023) were calculated without learning gains measurements, and schools were not penalized for low scores. However, starting in the 2023-2024 school year, the state will reintroduce learning gains measurements and penalties for schools earning D or F grades.
While the shift to new assessments means that trends are yet to be available, statewide average scores on standardized assessments from the 2022-2023 school year provide a valuable indicator of where Florida schools are performing well and where they have room to grow.
Percentage of Florida Students Scoring Level 3 or Above, 2022-2023 School Year
English Language Arts – Reading (Grade 9): 48%
English Language Arts – Reading (Grade 10): 50%
Algebra 1 (EOC): 53%
Geometry (EOC): 50%
Biology (EOC): 63%
U.S. History (EOC): 62%
Civics (EOC): 66%
How Are School and District Grades Used in Florida?
Like in all states, Florida’s school accountability reports are publicly available, increasing demand for enrollment in high-performing schools and pushing families to leave lower-performing schools and districts. The state has also outlined specific incentives and penalties for high and low grades.
Penalties for Low Test Scores and School Grades
Per Florida statute, if a school earns a grade of D, it must immediately implement interventions laid out by the state legislature. If a school earns a grade of F or a D for a second consecutive year, it must submit a district-managed turnaround plan to the state Board of Education for approval.
If the school’s grade doesn’t improve to at least a C within the timeframe specified by the Board (typically one or two full years after the turnaround plan is implemented), potential consequences include reassigning the school’s students, closing the school and reopening it as a charter school run by an approved governing board, or bringing in an outside entity or operator to manage the school.
Incentives for High Test Scores and School Grades
On the other hand, schools that achieve high scores or demonstrate significant improvement can receive rewards for their performance. The Florida School Recognition Program gives financial awards and increased flexibility to schools that receive an A grade, a rating of Commendable, or that improve by more than one letter grade and sustain that improvement the following year. Funding awards can be up to $100 per full-time student enrolled in the school, and school administrators may choose to distribute the funds in several ways, including as bonuses to teachers and staff.
Additionally, student score improvement on the Grades 9 and 10 English Language Arts FAST assessment and the Algebra 1 EOC assessment are a significant component of Florida’s value-added model to measure teacher efficacy. In districts that adopt this model, teachers whose students score higher than expected may be eligible for increased salaries or other benefits.
Solutions for Improving School Accountability Ratings in Florida
Since standardized test scores account for eight out of the ten components used to determine school and district grades, these assessments carry high stakes — and improving test scores is the most straightforward way for schools and districts to achieve higher grades.
But, preparing students for success on FAST and end-of-course exams requires subject mastery, and focusing too heavily on test-taking strategies can eat up valuable instructional time.
That’s why MasteryPrep offers equitable, mastery-based learning systems for school districts to improve performance on Florida’s statewide assessments. These programs help students deepen their understanding of core concepts, refresh the material most likely to be covered in tests, and practice the skills and techniques they need to succeed.
MasteryPrep solutions are available for:
The solutions are comprehensive and fully supported, requiring no lesson planning or preparation. They include professional development for teachers, diagnostic tests to assess students’ starting points at the beginning of the year, and an in-depth curriculum with both in-class practice and digital SnapCourses that provide an engaging, online experience that adapts to each student.
MasteryPrep also offers Boot Camps for each assessment. Boot Camps are half-day events that provide students with a targeted, last-minute review of content and test-taking strategy. Each Boot Camp is led by a MasteryPrep-certified instructor and can be delivered in-person or virtually.
Florida districts including Duval, Miami-Dade, Orange, Okaloosa, Jefferson, and Escambia are already using MasteryPrep solutions, and more than 84% of Florida participants improve in at least one subject area.
MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources for the SAT®, ACT®, TSIA2, EOC, and WorkKeys®. MasteryPrep is the nationally preferred SAT and ACT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education and licensed by ACT to include official ACT test questions in its programs. MasteryPrep partners with schools and districts to help level the standardized assessment playing field. MasteryPrep has ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies” for six years and is a featured “Entrepreneur 360” company.
MasteryPrep is here to bridge the gap in an e-learning environment by providing your students with much needed college readiness preparation.
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